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More Evidence that RNA is Behind the Origin of Life

Everyone knows about DNA and the genome as origins of life. In addition, another likely candidate and close companion to DNA is RNA (ribonucleic acid). DNA carries the genetic code that determines physical characteristics. RNA is a messenger for DNA by spreading the proteins throughout the body.

DNA Molecule

DNA Molecule

Scientists from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany recently released the results of their study of how RNA may have started life on Earth.

The abstract states,

The origin of life is believed to have started with prebiotic molecules reacting along unidentified pathways to produce key molecules such as nucleosides. To date, a single prebiotic pathway to purine nucleosides had been proposed. It is considered to be inefficient due to missing regioselectivity and low yields. We report that the condensation of formamidopyrimidines (FaPys) with sugars provides the natural N-9 nucleosides with extreme regioselectivity and in good yields (60%). The FaPys are available from formic acid and aminopyrimidines, which are in turn available from prebiotic molecules that were also detected during the Rosetta comet mission. This nucleoside formation pathway can be fused to sugar-forming reactions to produce pentosides, providing a plausible scenario of how purine nucleosides may have formed under prebiotic conditions.

In other words, four elements are necessary for the creation of RNA molecules: uracil, cytosine, adenine and guanine. Scientist have been trying to replicate the conditions necessary for the origin of life on Earth by trying to develop RNA.

RNA Molecule

RNA Molecule

Lead researcher, chemist Thomas Carell says,

We now have a pathway that would allow us to use simple molecules that were likely present on the early Earth.

The team of scientists extended prior research that showed that a molecule, formamidopyrimidine can react with carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen to form purine. By adding acid to amine, the reaction formed purine that could bond with formic acid (a chemical found in comets), the theory that a comet crashing into the baby Earth could have reacting with existing compounds on Earth. This mix could have created RNA, a building block of the origin of life.